News / Middle East

US, Russia Pledge to Unblock Syria Talks

U.S. Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman (L) and UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi arrive for a trilateral meeting with Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gennady Gatilov during the second round of negotiations between the Syrian g
U.S. Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman (L) and UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi arrive for a trilateral meeting with Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gennady Gatilov during the second round of negotiations between the Syrian g
Lisa Schlein
The United States and Russia have pledged to help unblock stalled negotiations between Syria's two warring sides, International Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said on Thursday.

The U.N. mediator met for two hours Thursday with U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov. 

Brahimi said he briefed the two officials in great detail about the status of the talks, which remain deadlocked after three weeks of negotiations.
 
"They have kindly reaffirmed their support for what we are trying to do and promised that they will help both here and in their capitals and elsewhere to unblock the situation for us because until now we are not making much progress in this process," he said.
 
While describing the meeting as useful, Brahimi acknowledged he does not expect any "miracles."   He said the two parties are not budging from the positions they have staked out since the start of the talks.

Government stays firm
 
Brahimi added that  the Syrian government delegation remains firm in it determination to deal with the problems of violence and terrorism. 

This runs counter to the opposition's insistence on discussing moves toward creating a transitional government in Syria.  The government dismisses this out of hand, as it broaches the idea of removing President Bashar al-Assad from power.
 
Brahimi said the negotiations are difficult and will not be resolved any time soon.  He said the objective of the talks is to put these extremely complex issues on the table as soon as possible and work toward ways of addressing them in the future.
 
Still, he said it is critical the talks move ahead speedily as the people of Syria continue to be caught in a dark tunnel with no light at the end visible.  He said the one positive development during the three weeks of negotiations has been the delivery of aid to thousands of people in Homs and the evacuation of hundreds of civilians trapped in the city.

Brahimi said he hopes the Syrian talks helped move this process along.  But, he added all credit for aid going into Homs belongs to U.N. colleagues on the ground, who negotiated the truce with government and opposition forces.
 
As for the stalled peace negotiations here in Geneva, Brahimi said he hopes for the best, but is prepared for the worst.
 
"Failure is always staring at us in the face," he said.  "As far as the United Nations is concerned, we will certainly not leave one stone unturned if there is a possibility to move forward.  If there is not, we will say so."

UN pleas on aid

Meanwhile U.N. emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos says getting aid to desperate civilians in Syria should not be matter of controversy or politics.

Amos briefed the Security Council Thursday on what she says is modest progress in getting help to civilians This includes evacuating more than 1,400 people from the city of Homs.

A brief "humanitarian pause" last week gave women, children, and old men a chance to get out.

Amos said the Homs agreement shows what can be done. But she said it cannot be a model because aid workers came under fire.

She said both sides in Syria's civil war are breaking international law by failing to protect civilians. Amos said three-million Syrians are stuck in hard to reach places and that their lives are hanging in the balance.
 
Aleppo violence

Thursday's discussions come amid reports of violence in Aleppo and along the Syrian-Lebanon border. Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday that government airstrikes killed at least 51 people Wednesday in Aleppo, and that more than 230 people have been killed daily since a barrel-bomb campaign began around January 22.

Lebanon's Future TV is also reporting that 300 Syrian refugees have fled the region around Yabroud, a town along the Lebanese border, for the mostly Sunni town of Arsal inside Lebanon.
 
According to BBC and Reuters, Syrian government forces backed by Lebanese Hezbollah allies are battling rebel fighters in the mountainous border region in what is being dubbed the "Battle for Qalamoun." Syrian planes have been supporting the operation, which has pushed more refugees over the border into neighboring Lebanon.
 
Locals complain that even the road out of Yabroud is now being bombed in what Riad Kahwaji of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis calls a very strategic batlle for both Damascus and Hezbollah.
 
Draft resolutions
 
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia is presenting two draft U.N. Security Council resolutions on Syria.
 
The first is Russia's version of a resolution to bring greater humanitarian aid. Lavrov told reporters in Moscow Thursday the second addresses fighting terrorism, which the Syrian government has stressed in the peace talks so far.
 
"Facts confirming an increasing number of threats from an increasing number of terrorist groups are well-known," Lavrov said. "We are very concerned by them. That's why we presented to the Security Council — or in this particular case we've just started consultations — one more draft resolution on fighting terrorism in Syria."
 
Russia objected to a Western-Arab draft resolution on humanitarian aid as one-sided against President Bashar al-Assad's government, and said it would use its veto power to block the measure.
 
A humanitarian ceasefire in the Syrian city of Homs was extended on Thursday for three more days, the city's governor told Reuters.
 
"The ceasefire has been extended for an additional three days, starting from today, to allow the evacuation of the remaining civilians," Talal al-Barazi, the governor, said by telephone.
 
Mortar and rocket fire and sniping have repeatedly forced suspension of the operation, and al-Barazi added that a total of 1,400 people had been evacuated from the besieged Old City since last Friday, when the U.N.-brokered ceasefire began.

Images from Syria

  • Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafzai (left), who was shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for girls' education, talks to Syrian refugee Mazoon Rakan, 16, about Mazoon's experience in the camp during her visit to the Zaatri refugee camp, in Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, Feb. 18, 2014. 
  • A Kurdish fighter from the Popular Protection Units (YPG) carries his son as he walks along a street, Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood, Aleppo, Feb. 18, 2014. 
  • A man walks near a crater as smoke rises from a burning truck after what activists said were explosive barrels thrown by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, al-Inzarat district, Aleppo, Feb. 18, 2014. 
  • Civil defense members and civilians extinguish the fire from a burning truck after what activists said were explosive barrels thrown by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, al-Inzarat district, Aleppo, Feb. 18, 2014.
  • A civil defense worker puts out a fire after what activists said were explosive barrels thrown by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, al-Inzarat district, Aleppo, Feb. 18, 2014. 
  • Children run across a street to avoid snipers in Deir al-Zor, eastern Syria Feb. 16, 2014.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter runs for cover from forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood of Aleppo, Feb. 16, 2014. 
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter rests with his weapon in the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood of Aleppo, Feb. 16, 2014. 
  • A boy holds his baby sister, who survived what activists say was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo, Feb. 14, 2014.
  • Rescuers walk on the rubble of collapsed buildings after what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo, Feb. 14, 2014.

Edward Yeranian, Reuters contributed to this report.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: DavidArizona85 from: Phoenix AZ
February 13, 2014 2:29 PM
There is nothing to talk about. Assad and his allies have won. He will remain the dictator and slowly crush the secular opposition. There will remain an Al Qaeda presence in the Eastern part of the country which will continue to bedevil Syria and Iraq. Thank goodness we are not in there with our young soldiers being blown to bits

by: Daniel from: Indian Ocean
February 13, 2014 8:45 AM
All of L. Brahimi's 'work' is useless. I wonder how much he's getting paid by the UN...

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs